‘Something Has Got to Change'

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:53

Warwick - Earth, water, wind, fire, and ... hip hop? The Warwick-based hip hop group, The Fifth Element, may not be appearing on the periodic table any time soon, but they do have a message they want the world to hear. Together with D.J. Sinister Marks, The Fifth Element rappers Mr. Cord, Braxton Hixx, Loc Cain and Mr. Mercy are proof that hip hop is more than just a worldwide, multi-billion industry. And that the mainstream rap scene, characterized by misogyny, violence and commercially fueled materialism is no more than a scratch at the surface of the cultural phenomenon known as hip hop. Mr. Cord, who raps, co-produces and owns the Fifth Element's independent record label, Medical Records, said that part of his message is the truth about the cause-and-effect of violence and crime. Unlike the pro-crime stereotype associated with hip hop, Cord said he tries to steer his listeners away from a criminal lifestyle by giving a first-hand account of how bad it can get and why not to do the things he wish he hadn't. The title of The fifth Element's latest album is "Something Has Got to Change," But for Hixx and Cord, it's more than a title; it's commentary about the world, the music industry and their hip-hop culture. It's the glorification of extreme materialism and the idea that having lots of money is more important than being an artist, being a good person, having any self respect, or just being real. "Hip hop has become so commercial," Cord said, "that selling out is not just accepted, but it's what you have to do, that's part of the reason why people have such a negative image of this music." Cord and Braxton Hixx said they're so tired of what hip hop has come to stand for, they would feel better sharing the stage with old school rock and rollers than most mainstream rap acts. Unlike the rappers he speaks of, Cord wears one piece of jewelry, a homemade necklace fashioned out of quarter inch speaker cables, scribed with his hip hop nickname. "When I first got into hip hop it was never about diamonds and bling," Cord said. "It was about doing you're own thing, making your own original stuff. Hip hop is like religion in that everybody got their own theories on what it's supposed to be.'' "If hip hop was a body, Mr. Cord would be the heart,'' added Hixx. "For me, it's jut like a form of therapy." While they both admit being inspired by old school hip hop acts like KRS-1 and A Tribe Called Quest, Cord said his musical influences growing up were "our lives and the circumstances we been stuck with." Hixx added: "We don't want to be followers, we want to be innovators." Mr. Mercy, or Mercy Omega, one of the group's five rappers, is the "band hippie." Mercy, who has spent time following the 60's psychedelic super group, the Grateful Dead (or what members remain), played in the moderately successful punk band Skippy for the years prior to the Fifth Element. His reggae-influenced style brings the group a sound unlike that heard on traditional hip hop records. Mercy's lyrics, which are half sung, and half rapped, are influenced by everything from astrology to beer bottles. The group began in 1992 as Immaculate Flava, featuring Chord and Loc Cain. They met in Chester in Whispering Hills after both had moved to the area from the city. Cord said that developments like Whispering Hills, which were popping up everywhere in the early 90's, were attractive to families from the city who wanted to go suburban. In 1994, they recruited Hixx when he moved to Orange County from the Bronx and they changed their name to Dirty Dozen. Soon they had to change their name because of it's too-close-for-comfort similarity to D-12, the hugely successful Detroit-based hip hop group featuring superstar Eminem. It wasn't until 1998 that Mr. Mercy joined and the group became The Fifth Element. They released their first album, "Breaking The Surface," and shortly there after, Sinister Marks joined the group as D.J. for live shows. He has since become co-producer. Their latest record, "Something Has Got to Change, is 24 -racks that move through waves of political activism, cultural and social analysis, reckless partying, and down right lyrical skill that puts it all together. All of their recordings were done using no computers in Cord's home studio in Warwick.